Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Testimony on Governor's Supplemental Budget.  Lots of bills heard today in both the House and Senate Education Finance Divisions, but most of the attention was paid to testimony on the Governor's supplemental budget recommendations, which have driven his budget target for the E-12 budget area up to just under $700 million.  Given the House's E-12 target of $157 million and the Senate's of $350 million, we're all hugging up the Governor's target.  The problem is that out of his $700 million target, he has managed to recommend only a 1% increase in the general education basic formula amount for both years of the bienniums.  Paraphrasing Mr. Rogers, "Can you say 'cuts,' boys and girls?"  It's difficult to see how the situation will get much better given the targets in the House and Senate, but I wrote about that yesterday.  The other highlights of the testimony centered around concern over the Governor's recommendation for universal all-day pre-kindergarten.  One witness testified for the concept, but most everyone else mentioned it as something that the state isn't particularly ready for because of space and transportation concerns (that was a consistent message from the education community) or it's simply an unwise use of resources (that was coming from the private early childcare providers).  Given the House's budget target, I don't think we'll be seeing any revenue dedicated toward this initiative of the Governor's.  What happens in the Senate remains to be seen, but indications are (and again, given the size of the target) that the reception on that side of the street won't be that much warmer.  I'm guessing there will be money for early childhood scholarships in both the Senate and House bills and maybe some revenue from School Readiness.  I've been wrong before, but that seems to be the way the wind is blowing right now.

Other than that, the testimony centered on things that weren't in the Governor's budget:  less than stellar support for the general education basic formula, no increase in support for deferred maintenance for school districts, and no revenue to pay for teacher development and evaluation.  Dr. Jim Behle, St. Michael-Albertville superintendent and SEE Legislative Chair, provided SEE's perspectives on the Governor's budget recommendations.

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